BC Turf Winner Returns on Sunday at Saratoga

Godolphin’s reigning Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Rebel’s Romance will take his world tour back to North America in Sunday’s 65th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green going 1 3/8 miles over the Saratoga Race Course inner turf.

Rebel’s Romance captured last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf in November at Keeneland, providing international racing and breeding powerhouse Godolphin with their fifth victory in the prestigious race. A winner in four different countries, the Charlie Appleby-trained 5-year-old Dubawi gelding captured Germany’s Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten and Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne en route to his Breeders’ Cup conquest, where he came from 10th-of-13 to secure a 2 1/4-length victory over fellow European invader Stone Age.

En route to his German endeavor, Rebel’s Romance won England’s Group 3 Glorious at Goodwood and Fred Archer at Newmarket in his turf debut. During his sophomore season, he captured the Group 2 United Arab Emirates Derby over the main track at Meydan Racecourse and had won his first two lifetime starts over all-weather surfaces in England. He enters from an uncharacteristic seventh in his lone defeat on turf in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March at Meydan, where he finished 11 lengths in arears of highly-regarded Japanese-based Equinox.

“He’s a well-travelled horse; Germany, Keeneland, England and Dubai,” said Appleby’s traveling assistant Chris Connett. “He’s traveled this trip pretty well and he’s settled in good shape. He’s a typical Dubawi, he’s got better with age. He’s a big horse that’s really grown into his frame. Hopefully, we’ll get to see him at his best on Sunday.”

Rebel’s Romance has won over a variety of different turf conditions, including firm, good and good-fast.

“He’s pretty versatile,” Connett said. “The ground in Germany was on the softer side, Keeneland was definitely on the quicker side of things. I’d say ground wise it doesn’t really matter that much.”

Rebel’s Romance arrived at his Breeders’ Cup Turf endeavor in the shadows of his accomplished stablemate Nations Pride, who captured last year’s Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational and Grade 3 Jockey Club Derby Invitational after finishing second in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational on the NYRA circuit.

“The team always has held the horse in high regard,” Connett said of Rebel’s Romance. “As a 3-year-old, he won the UAE Derby on the dirt. Up until this year in Dubai, he was unbeaten on the turf. He’s a classy animal. Nations Pride had the form and was quite impressive in his runs out here. He had been here and done it before whereas Rebel’s Romance hadn’t been around the tighter turned tracks. The way he’s training out here at the moment, I think he’ll perform nicely on Sunday.”

copyright AGameofSkill.comRebel’s Romance will leave from post 9 in rein to Richard Mullen.

Trainer Graham Motion will saddle Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Albert Frassetto’s The Grey Wizard [post 7, John Velazquez], who arrives from a runner-up effort behind the Appleby-trained Siskany in the two-mile Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup on June 9.

The 4-year-old Caravaggio gelding was in 11th-place early and inched his way into contention down the final backstretch run and launched a wide bid in upper stretch. He finished two lengths behind the winner while staving off a late inside rally from 44-1 shot British Royalty. An allowance winner going 10 furlongs at Santa Anita and 12 furlongs at Keeneland, The Grey Wizard finished second to Nations Pride in last year’s Jockey Club Derby.

“I’m very happy with him. We’ve kind of pointed for this race for a while,” Motion said. “He seems like he keeps improving every time I run him. I wish this was a mile and a half – the distance is what really helps him. He’s not very quick from the gate and that’s part of the problem; it puts him at a disadvantage. Johnny knows him so well, and that’s a big help. We’ve taken some shots with this guy, but he’s always kind of responded. He’s a horse that has improved a lot since we got him, and I’m not saying that because of us, I’m saying that because he’s gotten older and figured it out.”

Is Solider Rising a Threat?

Trainer Christophe Clement will saddle Soldier Rising [post 5, Jose Ortiz] and Tawny Port [post 10, Joel Rosario] in attempt of his fourth Bowling Green victory.

Solider Rising, owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Morris Bailey, Wonder Stables and Michael J. Caruso, is five-time graded stakes-placed but is still in search of his first graded stakes triumph. The 5-year-old Frankel gelding finished second in Belmont’s Grade 1 Man o’ War and Grade 1 Manhattan this year while completing the trifecta behind former stablemate Gufo in last year’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer.

Clement said the Bowling Green will likely propel the hard-luck Solider Rising into a return engagement in this year’s Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer going 12 furlongs on August 26.

“One day it will be his day,” Clement said. “He came out of the Manhattan in good shape and has trained well. The plan is to go Bowling Green to Sword Dancer.”

Peachtree Stable’s Tawny Port is a new addition to Clement’s stable but will make his grass debut following a distant seventh in the Grade 3 Ben Ali in April over the Keeneland main track for previous conditioner Brad Cox. The Pioneerof the Nile 4-year-old was fifth in both the Grade 3 Mineshaft in February at Fair Grounds and Grade 3 Essex in March at Oaklawn.

A winner over Turfway Park’s synthetic in his first pair of starts, Tawny Port won the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland and Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown during his sophomore campaign.

“He trains well on the grass. He looks like a nice stayer, so we’re going to try him and see what happens,” said Clement, whose Bowling Green accolades include Flag Down [1996], Honor Glide [1999] and Grassy [2011].

Andrew Farm, For The People Racing Stable and Windmill Manor Farm’s Verstappen [post 4, Declan Cannon] will seek to recapture the winning form that earned him a victory in the Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 22 going 12 furlongs at Keeneland.

Trained by Brendan Walsh, the 4-year-old War Front gelding was seventh in the 11-furlong Man o’ War on May 13 on short rest at Belmont before cutting back in distance to finish third in the 1 1/16-mile Jonathan Schuster on July 8 at Horseshoe Indianapolis.

“He ran very well the last day at Indiana. We knew that would be a little sharp for him, and he nearly won it. It was way too short for him, but we were looking at the big picture to come up here and have a go at the Bowling Green,” Walsh said. “I probably ran him back a little quick in the Man o’ War off of his huge run at Keeneland, but the race was there and you take these shots. This time around, he’s been here two weeks and we were able to work him on the turf here. He’s fit and ready to go.”

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will saddle 2020 Champion Turf Horse Channel Maker [post 8, Manny Franco], who seeks his first victory since besting Solider Rising in last year’s Grand Couturier at Belmont. The evergreen 9-year-old English Channel gelding was a last out 10th in the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup and will compete in his fifth Bowling Green. Channel Maker captured the 2018 edition of the Bowling Green, where he dead-heated for victory with Glorious Empire, before finishing fourth [2019], third [2020] and seventh [2021].

Completing the field are the Chad Brown-trained pair of Highest Honors [post 1, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] and Rockemperor [post 2, Flavien Prat]; Grade 3 Dinner Party winner Never Explain [post 3, Luis Saez] for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey; and three-time winner Strong Quality [post 6, Florent Geroux] for Hall of Famer Mark Casse. Marc Keller’s stakes-placed Bobby Ribaudo-trained homebred Daunt [post 11, Javier Castellano] is also eligible.

The Bowling Green is slated as Race 9 on Sunday’s 10-race program. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Saratoga Live will present live coverage and analysis of the Saratoga Race Course summer meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule/.

Source: Ryan Martin for NYRA.com

Today’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy Preview

Best Horse Racing Picks This Weekend: Saratoga, Del Mar, Mountaineer ParkReigning Champion 2-Year-Old Colt Forte will face a compact but talented field as he seeks to regain winning form for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher in Saturday’s Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy presented by DK Horse, a nine-furlong main track route for sophomores, at Saratoga Race Course.

Owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, Forte arrives from a closing runner-up effort to Arcangelo in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 10 at Belmont Park. He entered the 1 1/2-mile marathon from 10-week’s rest after scratching the morning of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby due to a bruised foot, but shook off any signs of rust with a brave five-wide rally from sixth-of-9 to come up 1 1/2 lengths shy of victory in the “Test of the Champion.”

Prior to scratching from the Derby, Forte had been tabbed the morning-line favorite after a spring campaign that saw him notch wins in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby. As a juvenile, he won a trio of Grade 1s in the Spa’s Hopeful, and the Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland, awarding him with his Champion honors.

Pletcher praised Forte’s performance in the Belmont, noting the difficulty he overcame in racing at a marathon distance after an extended period away from the races.

“It was a frustrating spring and he ran terrific in the Belmont considering what he was up against,” said Pletcher, who is in pursuit of a record-extending seventh Jim Dandy triumph. “To me, he’s a deserving divisional leader, but he has to continue to win to hold that spot.”

The dark bay son of Violence logged his final breeze last Saturday in preparation for the Jim Dandy. He worked a half-mile in 50 seconds in company with graded stakes-winning stablemate Emmanuel, sporting blinkers which he will wear for the first time in the afternoon in Saturday’s test.

“It’s hard to think about making a change off multiple [good performances] in a row, but he’s always been a very intelligent colt and he’s gotten a little more complacent,” Pletcher said. “Everything comes so easily to him that he was maybe getting a little wise to it. We just needed him to get a little more focused.”

Forte boasts field-best earnings of $2,679,830 through a record of 8-6-1-0. Out of the multiple stakes-winning Blame mare Queen Caroline, Forte was purchased for $110,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is a direct descendant of Reine-de-Course mare La Troienne.

Irad Ortiz, Jr. [124 pounds], the pilot in each of Forte’s lifetime starts, retains the mount from post 2.

Brad Cox with a Trio

Two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox brings a formidable trio of challengers in Grade 1-winner Angel of Empire [post 5, Flavien Prat, 124 pounds], graded stakes-winner Hit Show [post 3, Luis Saez, 120 pounds] and graded stakes-placed Saudi Crown [post 4, Florent Geroux, 118 pounds].

Albaugh Family Stables’ Angel of Empire was last seen finishing fourth in a dead heat with Hit Show in the Belmont Stakes, closing from seventh under Flavien Prat to reach the wire in tandem with his stablemate and finish 2 1/2 lengths behind Arcangelo. He entered the Belmont from a rallying third in the Kentucky Derby just 1 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Mage, and made the Derby starting gate with wins in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds Race Course and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

Gary and Mary West’s Hit Show had a more prominent trip in the Belmont than Angel of Empire and kept on well down the lane to hold onto fourth after losing ground through the final turn. The son of Candy Ride won the Grade 3 Withers and finished second by a nose in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack ahead of a game fifth-place effort in the Kentucky Derby.

Cox said he would like to use the Jim Dandy as a stepping stone to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 26 for both Hit Show and Angel of Empire, who each received a 99 Beyer Speed Figure for their Belmont Stakes efforts. Cox saddled Essential Quality to victory in the 2021 Jim Dandy en route to a neck triumph in the Travers.

“They both got big numbers in the Belmont and they’re both doing well,” said Cox. “This is a step towards trying to get to the Travers and we’re hoping we see enough from them to march forward to that. I’m very happy with both of them all year. Consistent, durable horses that have shown up every time.”

Cox noted the tenacity of Hit Show, pointing to the way he fought on in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont after putting in his bid for the lead.

“He just stayed on and I think we saw a little of that in the Derby, too,” said Cox. “We should get good trips with the short field and we’ll see how it works out.”

FMQ Stables’ Saudi Crown is the most lightly-raced of the Cox triad, entering from a gutsy runner-up effort to Fort Bragg in the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 1 at Belmont. The grey son of Always Dreaming set the tempo in the one-turn mile Dwyer with Fort Bragg stalking 2 1/2 lengths back before they matched strides in the stretch for a thrilling battle to the wire where Fort Bragg got his nose down first in a final time of 1:35.37. Saudi Crown was awarded a field-best 106 Beyer for the effort.

Saudi Crown, who won his first two outings by a combined 6 1/2 lengths at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, respectively, was purchased for $240,000 at the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. He is out of the unraced Tapit mare New Narration, whose second dam, New Normal, won the 2010 Grade 3 Natalma going one-mile over turf.

Completing the field is Winchell Thoroughbreds’ graded stakes-winner Disarm [post 1, Joel Rosario, 120 pounds] for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The bay colt enters from a determined half-length victory in the Grade 3 Matt Winn on June 11 at Ellis Park for his first graded victory on the heels of a fourth in the Kentucky Derby and on-the-board finishes in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland.

Asmussen said it was satisfying to see Disarm win the Matt Winn after quick back-to-back races when using the Lexington as a final push for a spot in the Derby starting gate.

“I think he needed the win,” Asmussen said. “We were chasing it a bit going into the Derby. I thought he needed to run in the Lexington for enough points and then there were so many defections late. But we regrouped and came with a win.”

Disarm looks to continue the run of remarkable success Asmussen has had with progeny of his 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, who won the Grade 1 Whitney and Woodward at the Spa and sired the Asmussen-trained Saratoga graded stakes-winners Gunite, Echo Zulu, and Wicked Halo in his first crop.

“He looks so similar to his father, who was third in the Derby and came back to win the Matt Winn,” said Asmussen. “Gun Runner was solid as could be as a 3-year-old and was Horse of the Year as a 4-year-old. We want to allow for that sort of development with Disarm as well. Echo Zulu and Gunite were very accomplished at two, and they are running faster at four. They’re faster now than they’ve ever been. As good as they are early, it’s comforting to know they keep getting faster.”

Asmussen holds Disarm in high regard and said the talented colt belongs in the same conversation as his Jim Dandy rivals, as well as the strong group that contested the Grade 1 Haskell last Saturday at Monmouth Park.

“He’s a very impressive physical horse,” said Asmussen. “From the Jim Dandy to the Haskell, there’s some extremely talented 3-year-olds and I think that he’s one of them.”

The Jim Dandy is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 12-race program, which also features the Grade 1, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap in Race 8. First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.

Saratoga Live will present live coverage and analysis of the Saratoga Race Course summer meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule/.

Source: Mary Eddy for NYRA.com

Do These Two Things Every Day at Saratoga

Saratoga backsideSaratoga, aka The Spa, is one of the best places in the world to visit. Nestled in a quaint town in the middle of the spectacular Adirondack Mountains, Saratoga Racetrack is like none other in the country. Known for the best horse racing during the year, Saratoga is the race meet many horseplayers look forward to each summer.

I have been going to “the Spa” since I was a young boy. When I visited as a tyke with my family in 1977, a couple of two years olds by the names of Affirmed and Alydar were running that day. My father liked Alydar. Neither my mom nor my brother knew how to handicap, but they both picked Affirmed to win. The rest is history.

There is nothing like Saratoga racing in the summer, and for a horse racing fan, it doesn’t get much better. Needless to say, it is a heck of a lot better when you win… and win consistently.

How can one possibly beat Saratoga, one of the toughest meets that handicappers will face all year long? The top barns converge on the beautiful upstate New York track every summer, and the money of horseplayers everywhere follows in droves. Pools are plentiful, but so are the contentious races. And it is those contentious races that can make Saratoga so difficult to beat. There are some races that are reminiscent of the Breeders’ Cup events where so many runners are contenders and throw-outs are hard to find.

There are several facets of Saratoga that every handicapper should know, and there are some solid strategies that I recommend for beating the 2023 meet which begins Thursday, July 13, and runs through Monday, September 4. Just by applying the following two steps you will put yourself ahead of the wagering public who have no game plan and approach each day at the Saratoga Racecourse haphazardly.

Have a Game Plan for The Spa

How often do we approach an important meet like this, and we have no idea what we are hoping to accomplish and how we are going to wager from one day to the next? I’ll take an educated guess and say that is the case for most players. We don’t want to shoot from the hip. Many players, including myself, make wagers based on the races we handicap and “who we like.” We will make all sorts of bets, from straight wagers to stabs at the Pick Six.

The better choice is to decide what your game plan is going to be prior to opening day of the Saratoga meeting. It is certainly fine to make various types of bets, but you may want to focus most of your wagering strategy on one or two bet types. Maybe you are good at structuring Trifecta or Pick-4 wagers. Maybe you’re an effective straight player (win, place, show) but you get “sucked into” playing exotics. Recognize your strengths and build a game plan around them.

Heeding this advice and showing discipline throughout the meet could be a real difference maker for your bottom line. Fortunately, most of the general public does not approach the races with this mindset, and that is great for us handicappers who are taking this seriously.

Pick Your Spots at Saratoga

“Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.” ~ Lou Holtz

On a related note, picking your spots is the key to beating the meet. You are not going to finish ahead by the time Labor Day rolls around if you are playing every available race at the Spa. Unless you’re Houdini, wagering on hundreds of races at Saratoga and turning a profit isn’t going to happen.

Needless to say, this is good advice, year-round, for horseplayers but especially so for Saratoga due to all the contentious races. Handicappers looking to turn a profit over the 40 days have to pick their spots. Focus on the races you excel at and avoid the ones you typically don’t have a good handle on. If you have been playing the races long enough, then you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, so use that knowledge to your advantage. Or pay the consequences.

Have a game plan this Summer and focus on your best plays. Best of luck!

Related Information for Horseplayers

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